One of the best memories I have of growing up in Hawaii is the plate lunches. Chicken, two scoops of rice and a ball of mac salad… it’s so onolicious. Looking back, however, those meal memories are tainted with a side of guilt because the plastic foam containers those childhood plate lunches came in will be sticking around long after I’m gone.
Hawaii, however is making moves to say aloha (the good-bye one) to polystyrene food containers as it considers legislation that: “Prohibits sale of polystyrene foam food service containers and the sale or service of food using polystyrene containers statewide.” As The Associated Press reports, while some cities in the U.S. have enacted similar bans, if this latest bill passes, it would make Hawaii the first state to enforce such restrictions.
But Hawaii isn’t stopping with food containers. The state government has a second bill in the hopper that would, as The AP writes, “prohibit restaurants, stores, wholesalers and government agencies from distributing and using plastic drink bottles, utensils, stirring sticks, bags and straws.”
Hawaii actually has a lot at stake when it comes to plastic and the environment. Nearly 10 million tourists visited Hawaii last year, spending $17.8 billion and generating $2 billion in tax revenue. That’s 10 million people who eat, make their own trash, and then leave it for residents to deal with. But it’s not just the tourists; 8 million metric tons of plastic waste go into the ocean each year, and the Hawaiian Islands are, obvi, surrounded by ocean. If plastic waste destroys the beautiful water and beaches of Hawaii, well that’s bad, but you can also wave aloha (again, the good-bye kind) to all those tourist dollars and the local economy.
Thankfully, Hawaii’s moves to hoʻomaʻemaʻe (clean up) come at a time when the world is re-examining its plastic use. Restaurants like Starbucks and McDonalds are reducing plastic by exploring more sustainable cups, Walmart is cutting plastic packaging waste, Pepsi and Nestlé are trialing reusable containers, and the world, in general is taking note and starting to tackle the plastic problem.
Hawaii’s proposed legislation hasn’t passed yet, and there’s a good chance that only the restaurant ban on polystyrene will stick as critics say the single-use plastic legislation could make selling things like plastic trash liners illegal.
As someone who loves to visit Hawaii (and is therefore also part of the problem), I’m all for whatever keeps Hawaii beautiful. If that means changing what my future plate lunches come in, I’m all for it.